There can be no doubt after this, that The Radio / Worldwide Church of God was a cult.
There can be no doubt after this, that Herbert Armstrong had very little truth.
There can be no doubt after this, that many of the Churches of God have never been what a Merciful God would have wanted.
Matthew, Chapter 23, is an indictment of the Pharisees by one quoted as Jesus.
He began speaking to the multitudes, according to the account, by telling the people to do according to what the Pharisee commanded, because they had the Authority of Moses, but warned not to do their works and deeds. “They say, and do not,” He said. Later he accused them of the double standard, that they were hypocrites. He even called the whitewashed tombs.
“For, ” He said, “they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them [the heavy burdens] with one of their fingers”. Jesus pointed out that they were Narcissists, wanting to be validated–to be seen of men–to make great pretense of their own righteousness. They had their own exclusive clique.
Pharisees were accused of devouring widow’s houses, killing the prophets, of being full of extortion and excess while having an image as a triumph over the substance.
Jesus accused the Pharisees of tithing meticulously but utterly ignoring the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith. The prophets before him like Isaiah in Isaiah complain that “None calls for justice, nor any pleads for truth: They trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity”.
According to Micah 6:8, all God ever wanted was for us “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly” with Him.
The phenomenon of the development of the Pharisee mentality is easy to trace. In olden [testament] times, there were these Ten Commandments, which in their pure form were not that burdensome–at least the ones dealing with your neighbor. The Israelites had a problem of “buying into” the whole framework, so even these simple principles were deemed to be “Stupid Rules”. That is the problem when folks don’t buy into the “Spirit” of regulations: They become stupid rules.
“These stupid rules were administered without mercy, and that’s just plain crazy. Not to mention, for the most part, this is not what a merciful Creator would be looking for in terms of building our relationships and showing kindness to others.”
From the Pharisee’s point of view, being a superstitious sort, there came to be a belief that many bad things happened to the Israelites because they did not obey “stupid rules”.
What to do? What to do?
The Pharisees invented even MORE stupid rules, so the people would not break laws that could send the nation into captivity or worse. They made rules to be fences around the Ten Commandments, so the people would not even get close to breaking them. Hence, if you visit a hotel in Israel today which is positioned to rigidly keep the Sabbath, the elevators run all day by themselves on Saturday, so people won’t work by pressing buttons, AND, the toilet paper is pre-torn, so… well, you get the point. The Pharisees invent rules to prevent people from breaking other rules.
That, of course, is not what Scripture says God wanted.
God wanted mercy.
God wanted kindness.
God wanted forgiveness.
God wanted justice, judgment, and equity.
God wanted peace.
According to the Scriptures.
Even the Apostle Paul pointed out that the “stupid rules” of sacrifices were ADDED because of transgressions, until such time that One would come to clear things up. God never intended stupid rules.
Pharisees focus in on the methods and processes, rather than the results. Once a stupid rule is conceived and written, it stays, and is nearly impossible to remove. It is administered without mercy. YOU MUST KEEP THIS STUPID RULE because it shows how righteous you are! AND it shows who is IN CHARGE, and how RIGHTEOUS they are.
Some time in the [nearly] recent past, Woody Allen had a movie called “Bananas” in which, with the most sincere of intentions, he displaced a South American dictator to help and serve the people. It was no time at all that he was lording it over everybody and making up stupid rules. One of the rules was that the people had to change their underwear every four hours. To make the law easier to enforce, he made it the law that everyone would wear their underwear over their outer garments so the policia could inspect the masses for compliance….
Most rational people should be able to figure out that stupid rules, added for the sake of “righteousness”, is the mark of a cult. Often, people tell me that “But Herbert Armstrong brought us the Truth”, to which I often reply, “Which truth? The truth of over 192 failed prophecies? The truth of various doctrines? Which ones? How do we separate the truth from fiction? What are the lies and which is true?”
People who have tuned in late, or are uninitiated, may think the following utterly preposterous. impossible–it could not have happened. But it did. This is so amazing and plain that most people have missed it. The following list has a few entries which may bear some explanation, because they may have their roots in Scripture, but this is a list of truly stupid rules, made up by Herbert Armstrong and his minions which most thinking people would reject as not being according to God’s will at all. A few have merit, but none have any more than a passing tenuous relationship to Biblical Reality.
For the skeptics out there who do not accept the reality that the Worldwide Church of God had Pharisaical stupid rules administered without mercy, I offer the following [some may have differed from region to region and minister to minister]:
Stupid Rules of the Radio Church of God
- No bell bottom pants;
- Skirts must cover knee caps when the woman is seated;
- Teenage males must be able to drop ping pong balls down their pant legs to the floor to prove that their pants are not too tight for modesty;
- No lipstick;
- No makeup;
- Hair must not touch the collar on men [only one Scripture in passing, saying it is a shame (not a sin) for a man to have long hair];
- No long sideburns;
- Women’s hair must cover the nape of the neck;
- No white bread;
- No white sugar;
- No white rice;
- No white flour;
- No vaccinations;
- No surgery;
- No jury duty;
- No voting;
- No military career [the advice was to seek to be released, but if you were in it, it was no law to leave];
- No police career;
- No psychiatry;
- No psychology;
- Natural childbirth;
- No holding hands before marriage;
- No kissing before marriage;
- No medical treatment;
- No marriage between two different races;
- Only “natural” supplements could be used;
- No maraschino cherries;
- Must eat unleavened bread all the days of Unleavened Bread;
- No Jell-O;
- No hypnosis;
- No cars for the unmarried;
- Must drink hard liquor at the Feast of Tabernacles [the Feast of Booze];
- Single people couldn’t own houses;
- Single people must save $**,***.** [ranged from $700 to $10,000 depending upon administration] before a couple could marry;
- Children must stay quiet and still for two hours plus for services;
- No TV on the Sabbath;
- No “R” Rated Movies [until “Paton”];
- No remarriage if prior marriage partner not married prior or prior spouse of prior spouse still alive [some situations took months for Headquarters to “untangle”–are we married or not?];
- Third Tithe [local elders told me for years that we didn’t have to pay it, and we found out that in principle we paid more than Third Tithe in taxes to support the fatherless and widow…];
- Pentecost on Monday;
- Raw milk [it’s a wonder more of us didn’t get Brucillosis; how now brown cow];
- No aspirin;
- Brown eggs;
- No single full time paid ministry;
- Minister’s wife not allowed outside work / career;
- Children tithing on allowance;
- Tithe of the Tithe;
- Five percent of income to offerings [just a guideline];
- No tattoos [the rule was, no cutting the skin as a religious ceremony for the dead];
- No smoking [It’s a good idea, but…];
- But coffee was O.K.;
- No working for a military sub-contractor;
- Ministers paid no second or third tithes [spiritual Levites];
- Secret records of all members’ counseling sessions [don’t kid yourself–they did have records of all your dirty secrets at headquarters];
- Whitewash brush at Spokesman Club;
- No church buildings, except at headquarters;
- Suits for men;
- Dresses for women;
- No pants suits for women in church;
- Tithe on gross income [instead of the clearly mandated net, as in, can you spell, tithe on the increase?];
- No steady dating;
- Only two approved positions for marital sex [and I’m still not sure which two];
- Only white shirts with suits in Spokesman Club–no colored shirts;
- Wash car before the Sabbath, for the sake of image [sorry, you folks in Seattle–too bad];
- No cremation;
- No divorce;
- No dating outside the church;
- No rock music;
- No birthdays;
- No betting / gambling [except at the carnival at AC];
- No motorcycles [probably a good idea not to ride the widow makers];
- No masturbation [OK, you want to prove it unequivocally from Scripture? Young baptized men had to prove their conversion by stopping or they could not be baptized!].
For those who have never heard this before, this must be amazing. For the rest of us, it was just a matter of course.
There are probably more, and feel free to add, but have I made my point?
These stupid rules were administered without mercy, and that’s just plain crazy. Not to mention, for the most part, this is not what a merciful Creator would be looking for in terms of building our relationships and showing kindness to others.
Stupid rules never produce righteousness.
If we perform good works, they must come from the good fruit of a right spirit.
I offer this in a spirit of mercy and kindness for those seeking answers….
Blast from the past. 2002
Article by Douglas